For many of us, walking our dog is something only relative to the term “walking.” More often than not, it is our dog that does the walking, or rather tugging. Unfortunately, this poses a slight problem, and something of a discomfort, when owners aren’t able to fully control their dog on a simple walk through the park. For safety and health reasons, the ability to walk your dog, rather than them walking you, is an important part of the dog/owner relationship, and is something every couple should master. Dogs that tug or pull their owner along by their leash are often seen on walkways or in parks, and can look silly, especially when the owner is struggling to keep up. Unfortunately, this is a problem that many of us suffer, and few take the time to actually tend to. So, we must address this issue, but not through rough treatment or fancy tricks with expensive tools. It is best done by working through the relationship that owners and dogs share with each other.
A leash to bond
The very curious nature of a dog gives them the desire to wander, which of course instigates their desire to pull and tug you as they chase a scent or something of interest (stray cat?). As your dog develops the habit of pulling you along by the leash, they begin to feel that they are in charge of the journey. You will follow them, rather than they follow you. This can be dangerous for a dog, especially if they are off the leash, perhaps in a park, and race away to chase some unknown object.
Where you need to start is getting your dog used to their leash. Many dogs don’t like the idea of being leashed, familiarizing it with restriction and unwanted feelings when they see it. When you can carefully observe your dog in a contained environment, put the leash on them and allow them to pull it around freely, so that they can get used to the idea of it being there. It is important to watch them to ensure that they don’t get hung up or caught on furniture.
A walk to remember
When they’ve become accustomed to the leash, or at least familiar with it being there, it’s time for a walk. But, this won’t be just any walk, because confusion will play a part in this trick. Dogs develop habits quickly, and have great difficulty breaking them. They will instinctively have the desire to run, chase, or pursue scents or objects of attention. What you must do during the walk is teach them that you are the primary object of their attention. This process does more than teach a dog how to walk with you; it teaches them that you are the center of their attention.
A short walkway, a leash, a handful of treats, and your faithful companion are all that is needed for the trick. Perhaps the short walk down to the mailbox will suffice for the walk, but other than that, all you need are the basics and the right method. First you begin to walk in one direction, and your dog will likely begin to race past you and tug at the end of the leash to begin the lead. Stop. Don’t pull back on them, but don’t walk with them either or you’ll reinforce their desire to lead. Instead, change your direction directly opposite and call to them (it helps to have this command already learned). When they come back, it is helpful to place a treat at your heel to keep their attention on you. Then, you begin to walk the other way. They will likely repeat their actions and race past you again, to which you also go through the motions again by stopping, changing direction, and waiting for your pup to rejoin you on your journey. This process is repeated over and over, slowly breaking the dog of its tugging and leading habits, and teaching them to walk with you. This happens as they realize that they don’t always know where you are going. And like any good dog, they always want to be with you.
Dogs are eager to please, and have the internal desire to follow you, but their curiosity and habits can get in the way. This process may take a few tries, or even longer periods of time, but doesn’t require a choker leash or head harness to get them to want to follow you. That is the trick. Rather than teaching your dog to follow…or else, you teach the dog to follow you because they want to be with you.